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Radioactivity Threat In Middle East Groundwater

Millions of people depend on the water for drinking and agriculture, but experts say that the presence of natural uranium and thorium poses serious long-term health risks.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A German government office has released data describing the potential dangers posed to millions in the Middle East and North Africa from water taken from fossil aquifers. The water in Jordan’s Disi aquifer, which is about 30,000 years old, was found to contain up to 30 times more radioactivity than is considered safe by the World Health Organization. A study revealing the threat was published in 2009, but it never attracted attention outside of the industry until now. The latest data shows that, even when confined to drinking water, future radiation-related death tolls in Jordan’s capital of Amman could reach as high as 8,000.

What’s the Big Idea?

It’s not just Jordanians who are affected: Geochemist Avner Vengosh says, “The problem probably applies to all sandstone aquifers in the region.” In addition to supplying human water needs, fossil groundwater is essential to agriculture, yet only Saudi Arabia is working to remove radioactive particles. Other countries lack sufficient water treatment equipment, and Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation is downplaying the seriousness of the problem. Despite the high radiation levels, the water is clean and free of bacteria, the presence of which would likely cause more deaths.

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